The economic road is uphill



The economic mood of South Mississippi is more optimistic going into mid-2010, although business leaders say it’s not time to pop open the champagne just yet.

Mixed with the positive signs are holdovers from the recession. At Thursday’s Sun Herald Business Roundtable, Cheryl Johnson with Regions Bank called the upswing a “timid recovery.” She said “consumers have changed their spending habits,” and economists expect that to have a lingering effect for 20 years.

The second-quarter Business Roundtable was hosted by Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport, where director Bruce Frallic sees signs of improvement in the local economy. Branson AirExpress to Branson, Mo., with links to Houston and Austin, is the newest service. Frallic said his staff is working to expand other service.

“Our target is to get AirTran in the market daily to Atlanta,” he said.

The passenger load is there for larger planes on US Air service to Charlotte, he said.

Improvements continue at the airport with a covered walkway from the new parking garage to the terminal, $2 million in lighting along Airport Road and the extension of John Hill Boulevard into the air cargo facility. Bids came in well under budget because of the economy, said the airport’s Jim Foster.

A privately funded $15 million expansion of the office park will create 100,000 square feet of office space. Frallic said occupancy at the hotels across from the airport is running around 90 percent.

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